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The state of physical media is strange. Big box stores are shrinking their Blu-Ray and DVD shelves while making more room for vinyl, a format first surpassed by CDs during the Reagan administration. But despite dwindling sales, there’s still a thriving community of disc collectors.
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The subreddit r/dvdcollection includes memes and earnest enthusiasts showing off their DVD and Blu-Ray shelves, and the community is in the top 1% of the largest subreddits on the site. The market isn’t just powered by nostalgia for the rental store days, either.
Newer Blu-Ray titles like Spider-Man: No Way Home managed to move 1.3 million copies in 2022, Yellowstone season 4 took the top spot for DVDs with nearly half a million units sold, and film enthusiasts will pay good money for a new or restored release from the Criterion Collection. While these numbers are a far cry from the nearly 14.5 million copies of Pirates of the Caribbean – Dead Man’s Chest sold in 2006, for example, it’s clear that people still buy movies on discs.
We’ve written about the advantages of physical media over streaming, and the dominance of streaming has made the case for getting back into Blu-Ray and DVD collecting stronger, not weaker.
Why Do People Still Buy DVDs?
Even though new discs are increasingly hard to find, collectors cite a number of advantages of Blu-Ray and DVD. Tarl Patton is a collector with nearly 6,000 titles that he shows off on his Instagram and TikTok, @moviecollector16. He makes the case for physical media by pointing out that “more and more streaming services are removing content. Whether they don’t want to pay residuals, or they don’t want them taking up room on their service, content keeps disappearing.” Even once-massively popular shows like Westworld can get not only canceled but pulled entirely, treated as if they never existed.
Buying movies and music in a physical format means that, for all intents and purposes, the content is yours. Regional restrictions and copyright law still apply, of course, (remember those “you wouldn’t steal a car” PSAs?), but a company pulling a title or an artist removing their music won’t affect physical copies. Even buying digital copies isn’t a true alternative to physical media, as purchased titles are basically only licensed, not owned. Plus, most physical releases come with a digital download code.
Blu-Ray also delivers when it comes to quality. As Patton points out, compared to streaming, “physical media is simply better quality and more reliable. The picture quality, and I’ve found especially the sound, are immensely better.” Using a disc also means never having to worry about buffering; even those with the fastest internet speeds suffer outages from time to time.
As for DVDs, while the standard picture quality can’t reach HD and 4K quality, collecting them can be a way to add hard-to-find, niche, and older titles to the collection. DVDs and DVD players are much cheaper, too. Most of Patton’s collection is in Blu-Ray, but he has “800 or so DVDs,” which he buys if “the title is not available on Blu-ray, or is out of print on Blu-Ray and is very expensive.”
There are also less-practical-but-no-less-legitimate reasons to buy physical media, and they include the tactile enjoyment of admiring the collection, grabbing a title off the shelf, and popping open the case. Plus, Blu-Rays and DVDs almost always include more bonus content than what can be found on streamers.
But where should you buy DVDs and Blu-Rays? As Patton points out, the bad news is that “brick-and-mortar stores are dwindling down their physical media sections more and more each year.” The good news is that, with so many people offloading their collections, secondhand gems can be pretty easily found on the cheap.
Patton regularly shops eBay, garage sales, and pawn shops, as well as big box stores like Best Buy and Walmart for new discs. Other options include thrift stores, and many record stores have DVDs and Blu-Ray discs, too. For those who’d like to get them for free, many public libraries still stock DVDs and Blu Ray
How To Choose A DVD or Blu Ray Player
The big question, then, is what kind of player to buy. The answer depends on the disc. Patton recommends using a game console like the Playstation or XBOX, because these can be used for Blu-Ray discs and DVDs, streaming, and of course, gaming.
That said, there are limitations. While the PS5 and XBOX Series X plays 4K Blu-rays, the PS4 doesn’t, though it can play regular Blu-Ray discs and DVDs. Many gaming consoles are expensive and large, so they’re unlikely to be worth it for non-gamers.
Non-gamers who want to play 4K content will want an Ultra HD Blu-Ray player. Higher definition units are backward compatible, meaning an Ultra HD Blu-Ray player that plays 4K Blu-Rays can also play regular Blu-Ray discs and DVDs, just like a Blu-Ray player can play DVDs.
The exception is HD DVD, an optical disc format that lost the format war with Blu-Ray but can still occasionally be found secondhand. Patton uses his XBOX 360 to play these, although the average DVD and Blu-Ray shopper is unlikely to come across them. “I do still come across HD DVDs, [but] every year I see fewer and fewer.”
A DVD player can only play DVDs and CDs, but they are considerably less expensive than Blu-Ray players. Those who only have DVDs and have no intention to get into Blu-Ray will be happy with a basic, budget DVD player.
Panasonic – 4K Ultra HD Blu-Ray Player
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Panasonic’s Blu-Ray player is a good option for anyone with a collection of 4K Blu-Ray discs, and it also upscales Blu-Ray and DVD discs. For the best audio experience, the player also has Dolby Atmos with surround sound capabilities. It has no smart capabilities, although most are likely to have a streaming stick or smart TV already.
Sony Blu-Ray Disc Player
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A non-4K Blu-Ray player is pricier than a DVD player, but it’s not wildly expensive, either. Sony makes one for $75, and it also has access to over 100 streaming services. Anyone with an extensive DVD collection can take advantage of the upscaling capabilities of this player.
Sony – DVD Player – Black
Sony makes a great no-frills DVD player, which has a simple three-button onboard controls and an intuitive, although somewhat oversized, remote control. The player is thin, compact and lightweight, making it easy to slot into even the most crowded media cabinet.
PlayStation 5 Console
Sony makes two versions of the PlayStation 5, one with and one without a disc drive. Obviously, the disc drive version is required in order to play Ultra HD Blu-Ray discs, as well as Blu-Ray and DVDs. Thankfully, the PS5 is no longer as hard to find as it once was, though it’s still by far the most expensive on this list, so it’s best suited for movie buffs who also game.
Frequently Asked Questions About DVD Players
How Do I Watch A DVD Without A DVD Player?
According to movie collector Tarl Patton, one of the best ways is to use a gaming console like an XBOX or Playstation. Patton says consoles are “helping keep physical media alive, and they are multi-purpose for gaming, physical media and streaming all in one place.”
Can Blu-ray be played on DVD player?
Blu-Ray discs cannot be played on a DVD player, but a Blu-Ray player can play DVDs, as well as CDs. Likewise, while a Blu-Ray player cannot play 4K Blu-Ray discs, an Ultra HD Blu-Ray player can play HD Blu-Ray discs, Blu Ray discs, DVDs and CDs.
Which is better, DVD or Blu-ray?
Blu-ray trumps DVDs in all categories except for price, and 4K Blu-ray discs can deliver top-of-the-line sound and picture. That said, those who have a DVD collection and don’t intend to get into Blu-Ray can buy a basic DVD player for roughly $30. Some DVD players also have HD conversion, which will look better than standard DVD quality but not as good as Blu-Ray.
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